Is It a defined doctrine of the Church that infants who die before receiving Baptism go to Limbo; or is it simply an opinion held by most theologians
THERE is no defined doctrine of
the Church which stales that the souls of babies who die before receiving Baptism go to Limbo. The relevant defined doctrme of the Church is that the souls of all those who depart this life in original " sin " are excluded from the Beatific Vision. The doctrine was defined by the General Council of Lyons in 1247 and that of Florence in 1438. In regard to the Limbo of Infants, the Jansenist Council was censured for dismissing it as a " Pelagian Fable." he only means by which • . original sin " is removed from the soul and the free gift of supernatural grace restored to it is Baptism. But according to the common teaching of the Church Baptism may be of different kinds. Baptism is normally " of wrater." as Our Lord Himself said. " Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God," Two other kinds of Baptism are recognised by the ordinary teaching of the Church : Baptism of Blood and Baptism of Desire, that is martyrdom, and will to do what God wishes us to do. It is difficult to see how infants not yet come to the use of reason and discretion can gain Baptism by either of these means. Consequently a few, but yet notable, theologians in the past, St. Bernard, Cardinal Cajetan, and Gerson, taught and many more in these days teach, that the desire of Christian parents that their children may receive the grace of Baptism is sufficient to obtain for the children Baptism of Desire.
One theologian went so far as to teach. and without incurring open censure, that God commissions angels to administer Baptism to infants who die without il The modern tendency among theologians is to stress the truth that Christ came to save all men, and that all men (infants included) should have a real chance of being saved. With regard to the Limbo of Infants it should be noted that the common teachina is that the soul is completely happy, in the knowledge and love of God according to nature. This last phrase is hard to define except by its opposites : by supernatural grace, a free gift of God, we know God " even as we are known "; we see God " face to face." The soul in Limbo knows God and rejoices in His Glory by its not inconsiderable natural powers to do so.